Hurricanes Top 20 prospects

By Glen Jackson

Hockey’s Future’s Top 20 ranking is based on long-term impact on the hockey club and is not a reflection of who is closest to making the NHL. Players are assigned an individual rating per HF criteria. Other factors that help determine ranking order to varying degrees include: player age, current league and team quality, draft position, location (North America or Europe) and foreseeable opportunity.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. (6) Justin Peters, G
2. (14) Bobby Hughes, C
3. (7) Casey Borer, D
4. (10) Harrison Reed, RW
5. (11) Jamie McBain, D
6. (8) Brett Carson, D
7. (17) Nick Dodge, RW
8. (5) Kevin Nastiuk, G
9. (NR) Daniel Manzato, G
10. (NR) Kyle Lawson, D
11. (15) Craig Kowalski, G
12. (16) Joe Barnes, C
13. (NR) Mark Flood, D
14. (12) Jakub Vojta, D
15. (20) Magnus Akerlund, G
16. (NR) Nicolas Blanchard, C
17. (NR) Pat Dwyer, RW
18. (NR) Jakub Petruzalek, LW
19. (NR) Noah Babin, D
20. (NR) Stefan Chaput, C

Key: Rank (former rank), name, position – age – current team (league)
Rating, Projection

1. (6) Justin Peters, G – 20 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 7.5B, Projection: Starting goaltender

Since being drafted in 2004 Peters, has been one of the Hurricanes top goaltending prospects, an area where they were once one of the best in the NHL. With Cam Ward graduating and Kevin Nastiuk stumbling in his development somewhat, Peters not only becomes the system’s top goalie, but the Canes top prospect overall.

After a strong OHL career with the Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, and then the Hurricanes’ Plymouth Whalers, Peters has played fairly well as a pro rookie. Most of his season has been spent with the AHL’s Albany River Rats where he’s appeared in 30 games and has 10 wins, 17 losses, a 3.14 goals against average, and an .889 save percentage, along with one shutout. On Mar. 12, Craig Kowalski was called up to the Hurricanes in place of the injured Ward, and Peters was sent down to the ECHL Florida Everblades, but two days later the River Rats recalled the native of Blyth, Ontario.

The Hurricanes prospect pool is not nearly as strong as it was one year ago given all the graduations, however, Peters still looks very much on track to develop into an NHL-caliber starting goalie.

2. (14) Bobby Hughes, C – 19 – Kingston (OHL)
Rating: 8.0C, Projection: First line center

Hughes joined the OHL’s Kingston Frontenacs in 2003-04 when the team was a perennial cellar dweller, but with the help of teammates like Cory Emmerton (DET) and Chris Stewart (COL), the ‘Fronts have been a respectable contender in the OHL. This season, the team finished the regular season fifth best in the Eastern Conference and Hughes was 10th in the league and first on the Frontenacs in scoring with 40 goals and 56 assists in 59 games.

Hughes’ most impressive performance of the season came on New Year’s Day when he had three goals and three assists. In addition to that six-point game, Hughes had four games with four points, and many more three-point games. Scoring in bunches like that made him a leader, and although it was stated by some at the time of the draft last summer that Emmerton was a large part of the reason Hughes had a good season in 2005-06, Hughes proved he can do it with less of a supporting cast in 2006-07 as Emmerton missed the last three months of the season with a broken ankle.

Currently the Frontenacs are embroiled with a playoff battle with John Tavares and the Oshawa Generals.

3. (7) Casey Borer, D – 21 – St. Cloud (NCAA)
Rating: 7.0B, Projection: Top four defenseman

Borer is not the most exciting prospect on paper, but those who’ve seen Borer play, or know the high regard he is held in by head coach Bob Motzko and his teammates know the St. Cloud senior is the backbone of the Huskies defense.

The native of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota was already on a strong development path even before entering college when he attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s prep school where Sidney Crosby and Jack Johnson also spent time improving their games.

With the Huskies this season, captain Borer had two goals, nine assists, and 15 minor penalties in 40 games for the second best team in the WCHA based on standings. Borer led one of the best defensive units in all of college hockey this season, and he should be able to ease into the pro game with no problems.

4. (10) Harrison Reed, RW – 19 – Sarnia (OHL)
Rating: 6.5B, Projection: Second line winger

Although Hughes is currently higher in the ‘Canes top 20 rankings, Reed was selected one round earlier than Hughes in the 2006 draft due to a strong 2005-06 season with the Sting when he had 50 points in 68 games.

In 2006-07 Reed built on last season’s success and although he only improved his goal total by three (29), his helpers increased significantly, more than doubling to 52. Overall, those 81 points were 26th best in the OHL, and second highest on the Sting after rookie Steven Stamkos.

Reed is still working on the defensive side of his game, although he was a decent -3 rating this season. He still has more growing to do, but he did move his game forward this season, and with the weakening of the ‘Canes system, he finds himself as a top-five prospect for Carolina.

5. (11) Jamie McBain, D – 19 – University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Rating: 7.0C, Projection: Top four defenseman

The Hurricanes took McBain in the second round of the last draft, 63rd overall, due to high potential upside as a two-way blueliner. Like Borer and other high profile prospects, McBain also attended Shattuck-St. Mary’s and following that he moved to the U.S. National Team Development Program up until this season when he made the shift to college hockey with the Badgers.

McBain appeared in 36 games as a freshman and scored three goals (all on the power play and one of which was a game winner), and added 15 assists. That led the Badger defense in scoring and tied him for fifth on the team overall. That’s a little more impressive because he also missed time for the World Juniors where he represented the U.S. and helped them to a bronze medal.

Although scouts find his skills to be somewhat unremarkable, McBain is now one of the ‘Canes top defensive prospects and appears to have the game to one day be a good pro, and that potential is enough to help him to just edge out another good ‘Canes blueline prospect.

6. (8) Brett Carson, D – 21 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 7.0B, Projection: Top four defenseman

Big Brett Carson is over the draft-day disappointment he felt in Raleigh back in 2004 when he slipped to the second day of the draft despite having all of the tools needed to go even as high as the second round. The 6’5, 215 lbs native of Whitewood, Saskatchewan might have been stung by how far he slipped, but he continued to focus on improving his game on and off the ice. He eventually became a team-voted captain for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen, accumulating an impressive 40 points in his final season of 2005-06. As a pro rookie this season he’s managed to stick in Albany, showing once again that defensemen in the Western Hockey League seem to migrate well to the pro game, even with the NHL’s more recent rule changes.

In 2006-07, Carson spent three games with the Everblades where he had a goal and an assist, but the rest of the season he’s been in the AHL. Carson has appeared in 51 games for the River Rats, scoring two goals (one on the power play), and adding 15 assists. His plus/minus is +5 on a team that is currently -12 overall, and his strong puck-moving ability and physical play have made him a standout for the Rats.

7. (17) Nick Dodge, RW – 20 – Clarkson (NCAA)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: Second line forward

Dodge went from the Ontario Provincial League to the Clarkson Golden Knights under coach George Roll, where as a junior he has developed into a character forward who plays a determined brand of hockey. He can put points on the board, is excellent on faceoffs, and is a lead-by-example player who teammates look up to, which is why he’s a perfect fit as captain.

Team MVP in 2005-06 in his sophomore season, the Oakville, Ontario native led Clarkson scorers with 41 points in 38 games. In 2006-07 his production was steady at 39 points in 35 games, good enough for sixth best in the ECAC, and in December he was named the National Player of the Month. Dodge also tied for third in the conference in goals (18), 11th in assists (21), fifth in power-play points (21), and third in power-play goals with nine.

It was recently announced that Dodge was named a First-Team ECAC All-Star in 2006-07. Clarkson’s season finished last week when they were eliminated in the NCAA East Regionals after a 1-0 overtime loss to UMass. It’s expected that Dodge will return to Clarkson for his senior year to help lead the team again and add to his 98 career points in college hockey.

8. (5) Kevin Nastiuk, G – 21 – Las Vegas (ECHL)
Rating: 7.0C, Projection: Starting goaltender

Many felt that after Ward, Kevin Nastiuk would be the next to carry the torch in the goaltending pipeline following a fabulous career with the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers in which he earned many honors between the pipes including the 2003-04 WHL Playoff MVP award.

His pro rookie season in 2005-06 was split between the AHL and ECHL, and he performed well with the Everblades (20 games, 13-4-2 record, 2.52 GAA and .924 save percentage). With the Lock Monsters his stats were fair except in terms of win/loss column when he had a 1-7-3 record.

This season Nastiuk has spent the entire year in the ECHL with the non-affiliated Las Vegas Wranglers, posting a 15-8-6 record, 2.53 GAA and .915 save percentage. Like former WHL goalie Ward, Nastiuk was expected to be doing more than just playing well in the ECHL at this point, however the Hurricanes pipeline is still crowded and he can still bank all of this experience towards a future NHL career, but needs to make the next step to the AHL soon.

9. (NR) Daniel Manzato, G – 23 – Basel (Swiss-A)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: Backup goaltender

There was a time when it appeared that the ‘Canes fifth-round draft pick in 2002 might never play pro hockey in North America, but on May 31, 2006, the Hurricanes signed Manzato, with the stipulation that he could play in Europe again in 2006-07. The native of Fribourg Goteron, Switzerland did that and played for Basel of the Swiss league this season. He fared well the season before, also in the Swiss league, earning a 16-14-9 record with a 2.63 goals against average, but this year he and his team have struggled, and Manzato had a 13-30 record, appearing in 43 of Basel’s 44 games. He had a 3.50 GAA, but did have two shutouts.

Word has been that the Hurricanes plan to bring Manzato in to play for the Albany River Rats in 2007-08, and after this past year in Basel, he’ll eagerly await the challenge to play pro hockey closer to his NHL franchise. For Manzato it’s a return to North America after having played for three seasons with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL, which is where he first drew the attention of the Hurricanes.

10. (NR) Kyle Lawson, D – 20 – Notre Dame (NCAA)
Rating: 7.0D, Projection: Top four defenseman

Although a freshman, Lawson’s contribution to the Fighting Irish was like that of a more experienced player. He suited up for 38 games and had four goals (two on the power play) and 15 assists. That put Lawson ninth in freshman scoring and second for freshman defensemen in the CCHA. The 20-year-old blueliner also had a good WJC representing the U.S. in 2007. He was a +1 in seven games played.

Although the Fighting Irish narrowly missed qualifying for the Frozen Four, Lawson gained valuable experience this season and should be an even bigger contributor for Notre Dame next season.

11. (15) Craig Kowalski, G – 26 – Florida (ECHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: Backup goaltender

This native of Warren, Michigan has gotten a taste of NHL life over the past year. It began when he was the Hurricanes emergency goaltending backup during their Stanley Cup run of 2006. Consistently facing NHL-caliber shooters in practice helped boost his development. This was followed up by a recent call-up to the Hurricanes at the start of March when Ward went down to injury. Although Kowalski has yet to see NHL game action, the taste of the show might be enough to help him finally progress above the ECHL level.

In 2006-07, Kowalski’s third as a pro following a strong college career with Northern Michigan, he’s appeared in 41 games for the Everblades, accumulating a 26-11-4 record, a respectable 2.63, .918 save percentage, and three shutouts. Kowalski was signed to a multi-year contract following college, but it remains to be seen if the Hurricanes will elect to keep him on past his initial rookie contract.

12. (16) Joe Barnes, C – 20 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: second line center

No one has ever doubted that Joe Barnes has both the size and ability to be a successful pro. He’s also a player fans have wanted to see succeed in part because of how he gives back to the community. The concern with this native of Winnipeg, Manitoba has been what some scouts see as a lack of mental focus as well as injury troubles.

Barnes didn’t opt into the 2004 NHL Entry Draft due to a neck injury, but after a solid 2004-05 season with the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades the Hurricanes drafted the 20-year-old in the third round of the 2005 draft. He returned to the Blades last season and again looked good, so the ‘Canes elected to sign Barnes to a three-year contract in August, and they immediately assigned him to the River Rats.

With the ‘Rats, Barnes managed to get in 15 games at the start of the season, scoring two goals and adding an assist, with a +3 rating, before a major concussion cut his season short in early December. He’s yet to return, and some are beginning to wonder if this will short-circuit his chances to ever see the inside of an NHL dressing room.

13. (NR) Mark Flood, D – 22 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: Top four defenseman

Flood has already been tied to three NHL franchises in his short pro career. Originally drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the sixth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Flood was later signed as a free agent by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2005 offseason. In November 2006,the Hurricanes elected to trade Derick Walser to the Columbus organization for Flood.

Flood, a native of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, spent his junior career in the OHL with the Peterborough Petes where he established himself as an offensive defenseman. When he turned pro in 2005-06, the main concern was whether he’d be able to play as a pro in his own zone. Last season he appeared in 50 games for the ECHL Dayton Bombers, where he had 25 points, and nine games for the AHL Syracuse Crunch where he scored a goal and added a helper. Early in 2006-07 Flood played eight more games for the Crunch and again had a goal and an assist, but the Blue Jackets traded the 22-year-old.

Now with the River Rats, Flood has settled into the AHL nicely and has played in 32 games in Albany, scoring three goals and seven assists, and maintaining an even plus/minus. Two of his three goals have come on the power play.

14. (12) Jakub Vojta, D – 20 – Ottawa (OHL)
Rating: 6.5C, Projection: Top four defenseman

When the Hurricanes drafted him in the fourth round of the 2005 draft, Vojta had already established himself as an effective two-way defender who played a physical brand of hockey, one that garnered him a lot of penalty minutes.

The OHL’s Ottawa 67’s selected Vojta first overall in the 2005 CHL Import Draft, and although offensively he hasn’t produced as much as expected, all other facets of his game have come as advertised. Last season Vojta had two goals, 22 assists, and 114 minutes in penalties in 65 regular season games. The ‘Canes invited him to camp in September and got a better look at the Czech native before returning him to the 67’s for another season of junior.

In 2006-07, Vojta managed to triple his goal output from his rookie season to six, added 10 assists, and greatly reduced his time in the box down to 76 PIMs, in 58 games. He also played for the Czechs in the World Juniors this year, assisting on three goals in six games along with eight minutes in penalties.

For the 67’s, the only area that Vojta took much of a step back in was plus/minus after dropping from a +12 last season to -19 this year, but that issue is mitigated somewhat by the fact that the 67’s are a weaker team especially with the departure of goaltender Danny Battochio, and the team overall was -21 in goal differential.

15. (20) Magnus Akerlund, G – HV71 (SEL)
Rating: 6.0C, Projection: Backup goaltender

The Hurricanes brass is excited about this Swedish netminder one day coming to North America, but in the meantime, Akerlund continues to progress in fits and starts in Europe. He finally made it back to the Swedish Elite League, appearing in a total of 11 games for HV71 Jonkoping after last dressing for the SEL team for three games in 2004-05. That was after Akerlund began the year with Division 1 team Skovde IK, where he played the bulk of the season. There he had 32 appearances, a 2.08 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage.

The right-handed catching goalie is currently the backup for HV71 and has, by all accounts, played well when called on during his team’s championship run.

16. (NR) Nicolas Blanchard, C – 19 – Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
Rating: 6.5D, Projection: Second line center

Blanchard makes his first appearance on the Top 20 after being drafted by the Hurricanes in the sixth round in 2005. In his first two seasons he was overshadowed by the Saugueneens bigger name players such as Maxime Boisclair and Stanislav Lascek. He quietly contributed on offense while playing a good game in his own zone. Blanchard appeared on the second and third lines, and occasionally on the power play, and in his first two seasons he gathered 83 points total.

This season he had to step his game up and to a certain extent he did. His production increased from 44 points last regular season to 57. He had 22 goals, five of which were on the power play, and his points total was fourth best for Chicoutimi.

Blanchard is a physical player with some potential, and it would not be surprising to see him spend a few seasons in the ECHL.

17. (NR) Pat Dwyer, RW – 24 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 6.5D, Projection: Second line winger

Originally drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002, Dwyer had a decent AHL rookie season in 2005-06 with the Chicago Wolves, collecting 45 points in 73 games with a +15 rating, but in the 2006 offseason the Hurricanes swooped in to sign the native of Great Falls, Minnesota as a free agent. Production-wise, Dwyer took a step back in 2006-07, collecting 16 goals again, but only 21 assists compared with 29 last year when he played four more games than this season.

Although he’s not very big, the former CCHA Rookie of the Year is a two-way forward with good skating ability and work ethic.  But strangely he seems to do the best in his first year at each new level, the opposite of most players.

18. (NR) Jakub Petruzalek, LW – 21 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 7.0D, Projection: Second line winger

The only team Petruzalek has played more than one season for in recent history is the Czech league’s HC Chemopetrol Litvinov. In 2004 the New York Rangers drafted the Litvinov, Czech Republic native and encouraged him to come to North America and play in the OHL for the Ottawa 67’s. He had a good campaign, collecting 63 points in 59 games. Last season he began with Litinov but ended the year with the Barrie Colts where he got in 24 regular season games as well as 14 playoff games in which he collected 19 points.

The Rangers signed Petruzalek this season via their AHL Hartford Wolf Pack affiliate, but he only appeared in six games for the ‘Pack (and seven for the ECHL Charlotte Checkers) before eventually being traded to the Hurricanes Nov. 21. With Albany he’s received more playing opportunity and had nine goals and 16 assists in 44 games for the River Rats.

Petruzalek is known as a player with high potential offensive upside, but it’s unclear if he has much long-term potential as a pro in North America.

19. (NR) Noah Babin, D – 23 – Albany (AHL)
Rating: 6.0C, Projection: Third pairing defenseman

A new addition to the Hurricanes organization, Babin was signed to a two-year pro contract on Mar. 26 following on the heels of Notre Dame’s elimination from NCAA Tournament quarter finals.

As a senior in 2006-07, he helped lead a strong season for the Fighting Irish from the blueline and had two goals and 20 assists during a campaign that saw Notre Dame ranked No. 1 for most of the year. Babin was also a teammate of fellow Hurricanes’ prospect Kyle Lawson. The Hurricanes assigned Babin to the River Rats to close out this season.

20. (NR) Stefan Chaput, C – 19 – Lewiston (QMJHL)
Rating: 6.0C, Projection: Third line center

Chaput has done it the hard way in most of his career, earning his breaks every step of the way. He caught on with the Lewiston MAINEiacs because of a great work ethic, feisty play, and offensive ability. Chaput is a momentum changer which coach Clément Jodoin likes to take advantage of.

In his first full season in the Q last year he had 19 goals and 29 assists in 69 games, and this season he had another solid season on the second line of the MAINEiacs, although not as productive as was hoped. In 57 games he had 17 goals and 29 assists. Although he plays aggressively, he doesn’t take an overly abundant number of penalties (43 minutes in 2006-07), and he’s a true energy-line player who will look to bounce back next season.

Missing the cut

Mike Angelidis, LW – 21 – Florida (ECHL)
Rating: 6.0D, Projection: Checking line winger

Angelidis spent his entire OHL career with the Owen Sound Attack, but he went undrafted when he was eligible due to 17, 18, and 19 points in his first three seasons beginning in 2002-03. Angelidis was always a physical player who dropped the gloves fairly often, but in 2005-06 he put the physical part of his game together with some scoring and finished third on the team in total points, with 78 in 68 games. He saw regular power-play time and played alongside Anaheim prospect Bobby Ryan quite often.

Angelidis was named a first-team All-Star in the OHL in 2006, as well as winning the Dan Snyder Humanitarian of the Year award due to his various contributions to the community. As a result of the strong showing in his final year in the OHL, the Hurricanes signed the 21-year-old as a free agent in 2006 and sent him to the Everblades where he began the 2006-07 season. He had ten goals and eight assists in 24 games there before getting the call-up to Albany where he played in 19 games so far, collecting three goals and four assists. It remains to be seen if Angelidis will start next season in the AHL or ECHL.

Phil Laugher and Holly Gunning contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future.  Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.